cover image Land of Milk and Honey

Land of Milk and Honey

C Pam Zhang. Riverhead, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-53824-1

Zhang’s exquisite and seductive second novel (after How Much of These Hills Is Gold) centers on an unnamed chef, 29, who is trying to survive in the wake of an environmental catastrophe that wreaked havoc on the earth’s biodiversity. Raised in Los Angeles by a single immigrant mother, the chef chased complex flavors and busy kitchens since she was 19. But when the disaster decimated kitchen ingredients and shuttered borders, she was left cooking with years-old fish and bioengineered flour: “Chef had lost its meaning... like fresh.” In a desperate attempt to change her surroundings, she takes a head chef position at a secretive food research community on the mountainous Italian-French border, which holds a surprising storeroom with the world’s last strawberries, Parmigiano, and boar meat. Her transition to cooking for investors she cannot meet is difficult—she has no access to the outside world and she can’t stomach the rich food. But she becomes preoccupied with Aida, the boss’s mischievous 20-year-old daughter, who shows up to test her cooking. Aida and her father see their facility as the planet’s last hope, and the chef soon learns that her role extends beyond food to enabling a world that caters to their ambition. Wrestling with her desire for both excitement and stability, the chef must squash the inner voice that asks, “Hadn’t I meant to feed anyone else?” Emotionally captivating and raw, this masterpiece will be enjoyed to the last bite. Agent: Bill Clegg, Clegg Agency. (Sept.)